So after breakfast I struck out on a route that passed by the Vittorio Emanuelle II Monument and continued up the same street I ran down in the last few hundred meters of the marathon earlier in the week. I turned onto Via si Sant'Eufemia which ran behind the Church of the Most Holy Name of Mary and climbed the stairs up to Largo Magnanapoli and to Via Panisperna. This is a long, straight, hilly street that leads right to Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.
|View of the basilica way off in the distance and some interesting|
vines growing on wires across the roadway
It was a long walk, and those hills! But the view of the Basilica was like a beacon, spurring me on.
|Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore at the top of Esquiline hill.|
My approach brought me to the back side of the basilica, on Piazza dell Esquilino anchored at the corner by an ancient obelisk. I walked around the basilica to the front, which faces the piazza that bears the basilica's name.
|Back side of the Basilica, on Piazza dell Esquilino|
Here I could see a line of visitors snaking into a large tent, and armed guards positioned along the perimeter of the plaza. The line seemed to be moving along at a good pace, so I stepped in line. I eventually reached the tent, where they had an airport-style security set up with step-through metal detector and x-ray machine for my purse. Larger purses, bags and backpacks were forbidden. Sad what this world has come to.
|Front view of the Basilica|
Once through the security I was free to enter the basilica and move through at my own pace. Photos were allowed, thankfully, and I took many pictures of the richly decorated interior.
|Beautiful ceiling panels....so much detail!|
History of the Basilica can be found here: Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. It was originally built in the 400's AD under Pope Sixtus III's rule. Today the interior decoration still includes some original 5th century mosaics. It has been added to over the centuries.
The overall opulence of the interior is just overwhelming and hard to take in. I was a photographing fool, trying to capture it all. But photos just don't do the interior justice!
|Altar and Triumphal Arch|
|One of the two domes, interior view of opulent mosaics and frescos|
I could have stayed here all day, but knew I needed to leave and start walking back to the hotel to collect my luggage and catch my ride to the airport.
But before heading back to the hotel, I continued up to Piazza Vittorio Emanuelle II, a large park at the top of the Esquiline. Within the park is an ancient ruin of a very large fountain that once graced this hill. In it's day, it received its water from a Roman aquaduct.
|Remains of Trofei de Mario, Trophy of Marius. It was a fountain which|
obtained its water from the Roman aquaducts.
Finally I was ready to head back. As I walked down the hill and neared the Fori Imperiali, I looked to my left down a small side street to take one last look and take a photo of the ancient Trajan monument.
|Trajan monument and Fori Imperiali|
I had a light lunch at the hotel restaurant, collected my luggage and climbed into the back of the private shuttle to the airport. The trip is over. Tonight will be spent at a Hilton that could just as easily be anywhere in the world and tomorrow morning I will get on a plane that will, in 9 hours, touch down on U.S. soil.
I sat in the lovely Hilton lounge/bar area and sipped a glass of red wine and reflected on the many aspects of this trip. I was still feeling a bit of disbelief that I actually completed the Rome Marathon. Even bigger than that....that I'd even considered doing it at all. I was pleased with what I'd accomplished. I was also happy with how I spent my time while here in Rome. Despite my many visits here, there were still plenty of little treasures to discover.
This has been a very rewarding and fulfilling trip for me. Arrividerci, Roma!